My name is Rick Paarfus, and I’m running for the Holden Beach Board of Commissioners. I would like to take just a little of your time to tell you about myself, my background and where I stand on some of the issues facing Holden Beach.
I have been married to my wife Ann for 33 years and our son Alex currently lives in Wilmington. We first came to Holden Beach in the early 90’s and fell in love with it. We bought a lot here in 1995 and I immediately began scheming on how we could move here full time. Finally, we were able to move to the area in 2005 and became full time residents on Holden in 2007. We are retired now, and we truly appreciate the quiet family atmosphere that is so unique to Holden Beach.
With regard to my education and background, I hold a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with 34 years of experience in project management, maintenance prioritization/planning and budgeting. As an Engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers in Wilmington, I managed several projects, including dam modernization and repairs, vessel repairs/procurements, as well as several equipment and service contracts. Additionally, I conducted environmental compliance inspections, dam safety inspections and implemented a facilities equipment maintenance system. As a project manager for the City of Wilmington, I managed several sewer pump station projects and planned/prioritized maintenance and improvements for the remaining stations. While employed by the Navy, I managed the Submarine Acoustic Signature Maintenance Program which included condition based maintenance monitoring for all rotating equipment on operational submarines and operation of two test facilities. My annual budget for this program was 18-20M.
Why am I running? I think the Town could benefit a substantially from having some engineering expertise on the BOC. Currently, this does not exist in the BOC or the Town staff. I believe I can be of great assistance in developing realistic project plans, cost, and schedules so property owners can make informed decisions as to how they want their tax dollars spent. I also think the Town needs real long term planning and fiscal restraint in the budget.
What are my top Issues?
Property Owners needs should be the first priority
Beach and Inlet Maintenance
Where do I stand on these and other issues? Read on!
PROPERTY OWNERS FIRST
The needs and desires of the property owners should have priority in the budget. That means saying “no” or “not now” to some projects. The property owners provide the majority of the Town’s revenue either through real estate tax or occupancy tax. It’s their money, and they should be driving how it is spent. One of my priorities will be to enable property owners to easily stay informed about Town issues and to be heard during the decision making process.
Critical infrastructure and services should be funded first before funding non-essential projects.
For a home owner to use their property they must have the following infrastructure: electrical, water, sewer, and adequate roads. I would add that the beach is also necessary infrastructure as that is the primary reason why most of us are here, and for about 30 percent of us, the canals matter too. Services such as police and sanitation are also necessary. Electrical is covered by the power company and canal maintenance costs are paid by the canal property owners. The maintenance and modernization of these remaining long term assets must be prioritized both within the asset itself and against the other assets’ needs to insure that the right work is funded and accomplished at the right time. For example, the Town wanted to borrow up to 5 M to upgrade pump station 2, but also has 1.4 M allocated in the budget for the pier and block Q. I think serious consideration should have been given to delaying the pier and block Q for one year and applying those funds to the sewer pump station to reduce the borrowed amount. These projects are not vital to the property owners, but a functioning sewer station is. Luckily, the Town apparently received an EPA grant and a State grant to cover the cost. However, delaying the pier and block Q should also be considered until the Town has reduced it’s debt service (3.6M this year alone). Two budget years from now debt service will be reduced by 500K and in three it will be reduced by another 700K annually. Identifying critical and non-essential work and aligning the budget accordingly will be two of my priorities if elected.
BEACH AND INLET MAINTENANCE
The Beach and Inlet fund should be restored to cover 50% of a major renourishment project. The Beach and Inlet fund has been depleted in recent years, leaving us to depend largely on federal disaster funding through FEMA, or the Corps CSDR program that may be too expensive, or borrowing should a major project be needed. Federal funds simply are not guaranteed, and there is likely to be some cost sharing. Beach renourishment is very expensive and borrowing should not be the only solution.
The pier needs a thorough evaluation to determine future development. I propose four steps: First, determine the legal obligations relative to the pier under the PARTF grant. Second, identify options (repair, replace, demolish) and obtain definitive cost estimates for each option. Third, determine the implications of each option on Town finances and property taxes, and develop viable funding strategies/plans. Fourth, let the property owners select their preferred alternative via a survey restricted to property owners only or a ballot referendum.
SAILFISH PARK IMPROVEMENTS
Sailfish Park should be left in it’s current state.
Unlike Bridge View Park, Sailfish Park is located in a residential community where it serves as a natural space and provides access to the ICW. Residents already have reported problems with traffic and noise at the park and submitted several petitions opposing development. The planned improvements will not add significant utility to the park, but will make the problems worse. In addition, the entire park, except for the parking area, is in the Army Corps of Engineer’s right of way. Should the Corps need to use it, they have the right to remove any improvements as necessary to execute the mission. Sailfish park is fine the way it is
PUBLIC PARKING AND TRANSPORTATION: KEEPING THE FAMILY BEACH ATMOSPHERE
Holden Beach has sufficient public parking and commercialization. Holden Beach instituted paid parking and nearly tripled the number of public parking spaces in the past couple of years. The revenue has helped offset the costs of providing public parking, restroom facilities, handicapped spaces and other amenities enjoyed by the public. Traffic congestion has increased, but it is still manageable. Public transportation (shuttles, trolleys, etc.) should not be allowed on residential streets. Additional public parking should not be considered unless a requirement emerges (e.g. the Corps CSDR Beach study) to create more.
PROJECT DETAILS AND BUDGET
Adequate project details/plans and the project budget should be readily available on the Town website. Projects like the pier and block Q should have this information available so property owners can see what they are getting and at what cost before the project proceeds. Personally, I support having a nice pier facility and improving block Q, but only after the plan and costs are known AND a majority of property owners agree with paying for them.
RESTRICTING PROPERTY USE THROUGH GRANTS.
Avoid restrictive grants that tie the hands of future Boards.
Some grants are necessary and appropriate, such as the EPA grant for pump station 2. However, some are not. The Town accepted a grant for 500K that requires the 3.3M pier property to be used solely for recreation purposes for 25 years or longer. A similar grant is in the works for block Q.
Why should I get your vote? Most importantly, I believe the Board of Commissioners should serve the property owners, not impose their will on them. I also have a great skill set and experience to help the Town deliver for the property owners. Last, I am a full time resident and retired, so I have a lot of time to devote to being one of your commissioners.
Now that you know something about me and where I stand, I hope I can count on your vote. Be sure to participate in the “Meet the Candidates Night” on October 20th to learn more about me and the other candidates.